In a USA Today report, the newspaper discusses the decline of album sales in rap music, stating that "this year, rap sales are down 33% from 2006." This is even greater than the overall decline in album sales, and cannot be dismissed as simple suffering from digital sales and/or illegal downloads. Culprits include skipping whole album sales in favor of hyping the singles that sell ringtones and digital singles.
The greatest culprit in the declining sales, however, cannot be denied: people are just tired of hearing about bullets and bling. As USA Today puts it, "the young, largely white audience that can make a difference between modest and blockbuster sales ó are tiring of rappers' emphasis on "gangsta" attitudes, explicit lyrics and tales of street life and conspicuous consumption."
And one of my favorite hip-hop artists, KRS-One, puts it this way: "The music is garbage. What has happened over the past few years is that we have traded art for money, simple and plain, and the public is not stupid." You've got that right, Blastmaster! Hip hop as an industry has given up information and education and social activism in favor of being strictly party music. There is no balance in hip hop.
"The public has made a choice," KRS-One says. "They're saying, 'We do not want the nonsense that we see and hear on radio, and we are not putting our money there.' Rap music is being boycotted by the American public because of the images that we are putting forward."
Arguing that the current language of hip hop is blasted because it is a cultural representation of reality, 50 Cent counters "Music is a mirror, and hip-hop is a reflection of the environment we grew up in."
In my conversation with Salim, a Baltimore hip hop artist (the podcast will be available on Any Given Tuesday tomorrow), we discussed the lack of balance in hip hop, and it is clear from the above comments by KRS and 50 that there are different cultural representations that hip hop can make. There is a time for party music, a time for mirroring one's reality, and a time for speaking out against political and social injustice.